Tag Archives: flash fiction

Prompt: an explorer with multiple personality disorder, a widow, a house in the woods

She looked at the ad for a long time.

Small house $1,000 / month. Follow the path into the woods at mile marker 72.

It had been up in front of Dale’s Grocery for a week. A jeep was needed to follow the path into the woods.

So she bought a jeep. A Wrangler, 13 years old, bright orange. Stan would have loved it. The ache balled up in the center of her chest. She lay down and kneaded the ache flat. It was easier to bear then. Nine months. All her friends had disappeared, as though Stan’s death might be contagious.

Mile marker 72 stood at the end of a dirt pathway into the forest. Without hesitation, she drove right in, until the path opened up into a small meadow of wildflowers in various hues. In the middle sat a small house with a scalloped roofline, like a tiny Victorian. A man sat in a rocking chair on the front porch. He approached her car when she drove up. They exchanged pleasantries and went inside. She exclaimed aloud her delight and signed the lease laid out on the table.

Though the house came furnished, she placed accessories throughout to make it her own. The second week in her new home, she woke to singing and followed it to the source, the guest bedroom. The owner of the house was dressing in her home. When she knocked on the door jamb, he startled.

He called her Evelyn and told her to get on with it then. She snake-eyed him, but decided to get dressed before resolving the situation. The front door slammed and his singing moved into the woods behind the house. When she finished, she followed his voice to him. And she helped him carry the firewood he was cutting for the fireplace.

“Winter’s a’comin’,” he said with a grin and a wink. Speechless, she carried her armful dutifully. At the back of the house, he stacked his and then hers meticulously. They finished before sunset, he cutting it up and her stacking as shown. Then he left with promises to return later, told her “no worries.”

I should probably get a dog, she thought as she sat in her front room staring at the empty fireplace that night after supper alone. After locking all the doors and windows, she slept with her bedroom door locked. Three days later, she ran into her landlord in town, acting like her landlord, not calling her Evelyn, but informing her that he would be out of town for the next month, exploring several islands south of Australia.

It was a quiet month. The woods grew chillier, the wind whistled, and she used the fireplace almost every night. Just before the month was up, she visited the animal shelter to pick out a ferocious canine. But the one who called to her was a Jack Russell terrier mix. She took him home. He roamed the woods with her. She mailed her check as usual, seeing nothing of the landlord after the month was up.

Until a few weeks later, in a pub in town, she looked across the table and saw him come in the door. She waved. He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes as though he couldn’t place her. He halfheartedly waved and moved away to the left. She finished her wine and told her friends goodnight, grabbed the terrier and drove home.

The next day, at the grocery store, she saw her landlord again, and he asked if he should know her when she said “good day” to him. She stammered that he should, that she was his tenant. He shook his head and backed away. She put chairs against the doors that night and let the terrier sleep with her.

He arrived on foot the next day from the woods at the rear of the house, called out “Evelyn, I’m home” before he reached the back door and knocked. She peered out the kitchen window and hollered at him to say his name. He gave her a different name than the landlord’s. He even acted in a manner dissimilar to the landlord, yet it was him. She let him in and gave him tea. He slept in her guest room. The terrier slept on her bed.

Over the years, he remained a good landlord, making repairs in good haste, maintaining the house and yard. “Evelyn’s” guest never overstayed his welcome, routinely going off to explore parts of the world. The stranger met her one day, but never took a liking to her as the other two had, but still, he seemed harmless, keeping to himself when he saw her, nodding a quick hello. He eventually said a “How ya doin’, Evelyn” each time he saw her.

Prompt: someone goes to extreme lengths to return something borrowed.

Begrudger

“Mother, I swear!” I looked around the pantry, though there could be no one to hear me. Who else would willingly clean up after my mother? She had so many grudges, and she kept everything related to them. In every room of her home, I saw the evidence of her inability to let go of circumstances, accidents, basically any incident where someone disagreed with her perception or somehow slighted her by not following her expectations. This book in my hand had to be the longest running grudge in the history of grudges, with more animosity on both sides than the Hatfields and McCoys.

That may be why I decided to return the library book that my mother had vengefully held onto for 52 years to the librarian who refused to let it go. If she was still alive, I would find her and hand her the god-damned book that had boomeranged around my childhood and beyond. Everyone else had let go of whatever trophy Mother chose to keep to emphasize her point, socks that actually did belong to my cousin and my mother had accidentally packed with my stuff, the lighter she said my father had given her, though he’d not recognized it and asked her to return it to his friend, so many other stupid, little things. Letters were written and phone calls were made, where arguments ensued, with no one as relentless as my mother.

I went directly to the address on the most recent letter in the box on which the book sat. Miss Habscomb apparently still lived in our town. Alas, this was not true. The new tenant informed me that she had moved three years prior, but gave me the name of her son, who lived in the neighboring state. The next weekend, I knocked on his door. When I explained my mission, he gave me the name of a cousin in Germany who’d taken her in, since he and his mother weren’t close. I took an indefinite sabbatical from work to fly to Germany. The cousin passed me on to his brother in Amsterdam, who sent me back to the US, Ohio specifically. Three weeks later, I had traveled most of the country.

Suffering signs of early dementia meant round the clock care, but her family passed her around like an unwanted pet. I was feeling sincerely sad for this woman. More than once, I had doors slammed in my face and thus returned to the previous kin to brainstorm her next possible move. Once I found out that she was in a nursing facility, I thought my journey was over. But they had sent her to a specialized hospital for an acute something I couldn’t pronounce. She then moved around from assisted care facilities and various nursing homes, depending on which relative was paying.

I found her in a California rest home, sitting in a bay window, scowling at the sunny beach. She waved me to sit down.

“I don’t like people hovering over me.”

“Sorry.” I set on the sofa next to her wheelchair.

“Do you need something?”

She still scared the little girl in me returning a book late. I swallowed and persevered. “Miss Habscomb?”

“Mrs. You’re not a child. Call me by my proper name, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I found this book in my mother’s pantry. There were several letters between the two of you.”

“I don’t know your mother, child. I don’t even remember you.”

“Oh.” I tapped the box on my lap. “Of course.”

“May I see the book?”

I opened the box and handed her the book. “Here you go. She kept all your letters, and even the ones of hers that you returned.”

Miss, er, Mrs. Habscomb’s eye widened and brightened. Lucidity shone like beacons.

“This book! This book! I do remember this book!”

“You do? That’s great. I’ve spent a long time and traveled a long way to return it to you. My mom died this last summer.”

She gripped the book tightly in her arthritic hands and held it up, looking at it with glee. “It’s too bad your mother died, dear.”

“Thank you.” I sniffled, holding back tears I hadn’t expected.

The book floated down to her lap and she pet it as though it were a cat. “But I have to tell you something.” She leaned forward, holding herself in the chair by placing her forearms along the wheelchair arms. The twinkle in her eye was alarming. “I win!”

I snatched that damn book from her lap and hissed at her, “No, you don’t!” and drove home.

Prompt: language class of aliens

“Class, class, do we all have our translators? Remember, you are not to rely on them outside of class. They are a teaching tool only. Let’s begin where we left off yesterday, with phrases.”

The teacher waited as students settled into their seats, popping the various translators into their ears. There was a bit of grumbling still about the price of the translator modifiers to fit the different alien ears – “should be included in the price,” “can’t believe we have to buy these just for class.”

“Must we do this every day? It wastes valuable learning time. We are not children.”

A tiny, orange insectoid hopped on the desk, giggled, and said, “Some of us are.”

The teacher sighed and hung her head. “I know, I know, but you will never be an adult. Let’s move on. Aringhanja, what was the last phrase we learned yesterday?”

A tall, slender, martian cyborg stood next to her desk to recite, “Mi nij ay troy. It means a three-legged dog, which is a favorite plaything of grown human males in over-populated, centralized habitats of the obsolete planet, Earth. Why do we have to learn this old stuff?”

“History of the Earth and its language is relevant to understand its demise. Your planet may one day be in danger of termination.” She rubbed her foreheads with all four tentacles. “Why must I go over this every day? I realize your governments sent you, but it’s up to you to learn. Just do it. Please.”

She tapped a tentacle on the front wall to bring up the presentation. It read “Menage a trois: 3-legged, mangy dog, a favorite plaything of grown human males in over-populated, centralized habitats of Earth.”

The students grumbled as they wrote down the definition and prepared for the next.

Prompt: the story of how your parents met, transposed to the Victorian era

“He’s a cad, Caroline,” Victoria hissed as she pushed her toward the door.

Caroline had not attended a garden party before today. At the height of it, when she believed she could eat no more food nor drink in no more ambiance, Allen had linked his arm in hers and led her to the grand oak tree at the edge of the lawn. He fingered Caroline’s blonde curls while appraising her figure with his eyes and whispering sweet nothings into her ear.

“I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong Caroline, my dear sir.”

Allen took three quick steps away. “Whatever do you mean?”

“This is my friend Caroline, as you well know. Your lovely fiancée Caroline is looking for you in the parlor.”

“I shall have to attend to her needs, then, shan’t I?” With that, he briskly walked to the house and disappeared inside.

“Whatever do you mean, Victoria, coming upon us so?”

Astonishment settled onto Victoria’s face at the rebuke. She whisked herself from the yard, following Allen into the house. Caroline sighed and also went to get her shawl. Passing the parlor, she witnessed Allen hugging a blonde in a spring green dress. He winked at her over the woman’s shoulder. She feared exposing her low breeding at the queasiness it brought to her.

Veronica called him a cad that day. She married him six months later.

Prompt: the smoke hung so think in the library’s rafters that she could read words in it

All Holly’s Eve

Holly was in on the scheme. She helped Jarrod set up the mysterious boxes with the magical switches and mystical buttons.

“I’m so excited for you,” she said again, giving him another hug.

He blushed. “I wish I could take you with me.”

She playfully punched him. “Stop that!”

“I know, I know. You’d only go with me if I love you, and I don’t love girls.” His baritone boomeranged through the library rafters.

“Miss Lovington will be so pissed.”

“She’ll get over it when I send her my first movie.” He held up his hands as he announced, “Special effects, Jarrod West.”

“I still think it’s magic.”

“It’s just technology, babe.”

She swatted him again.

Jarrod finished hooking everything up, and they descended the ladder to set up downstairs. The library had been a church originally, built by a self-made Italian immigrant, who imported marble for the floors, quartz for the altar, and the finest granite for the walls. Rails were added to the walkways in the rafters when the high school reluctantly let go of religious education in public schools.

Holly relished the irony of decorating the church for Halloween, her favorite holiday. Jarrod’s blueprints made no sense to her, so she anticipated the theatrics along with everyone else. Except she loved him as her friend, whereas others appreciated only his talent. Being a gay teenager who looked like a lumberjack in a little redneck high school was tough.

That night, she helped him carry up the bag that held, as Jarrod put it, the unknown quantity, his parting gift to his fellow high school students. Next, Holly arranged all the Halloween books chosen by Miss Lovington, lining them up with the ambient lighting strips for her “spooktacular” display. She placed fun-sized candy bars in front of the books, and she ate a couple. Jarrod finished upstairs alone, wishing to reveal his farewell to her this evening. Something thudded behind her, startling her.

“Sorry. Only way to get it down.” She widened her eyes at him in mock anger. His laughter bouncing off the walls rewarded her effort. He climbed down and attached the piece he’d dropped carefully to the wall, pulling the wires taut. “In the dim light, no one will see this. Close to midnight, when most of the people are in here—“

“Cuz it’s the end of the tour.”

“Right. That’s when you push the button.” He pulled her to the wall and pointed her own finger at the button.

“Okay, okay, I get it.” She snake-eyed him. “Won’t you be here?”

He grinned. “Yeah, I’ll be upstairs. Remember, don’t let anyone see you push that button.”

Just before the tour started at 9 pm, Holly and Jarrod supervised the placement of smoke machines on the outer walkways of the rafters. After quick instructions, Jarrod turned them on and set them to build gradually. Then Holly followed him downstairs to watch him work his magic with the laser lights. A few people drifted in, but hung back by the door, waiting to see Jarrod’s special effects.

As the smoke built, Holly could actually read the short passages in it. Miss Lovington had agreed to horror classics, Frankenstein, Dracula, and some less famous works. No Stephen King or Clive Barker. Absolutely no gore. She had conceded to Poe, so the lights frequently spread his words through the swirling haze.

Enchanted by the miracle of technology, Holly missed Jarrod’s departure, but assume he’d gone upstairs. She mingled with the Halloween revelers, oohing, aahing, and reading aloud at random intervals. With only a half hour cycle of quotes, Holly quit re-reading, getting excited again with newcomers. Fellow students who never spoke to Jarrod praised his work to Holly. She held her tongue.

Stifling a yawn, she checked her watch – 11:30, almost time. She could hear the tour guide outside the door telling a large group about the origins of the library. Then the guide continued with a few ghost stories the planning committee had conjured for the event. After a moment of silence, they were ushered inside. Holly stayed back to give room for everyone to witness the laser light show. Then she pushed the button.

Thunk! Jarrod’s surprise hung from the rafters over their heads, swinging wildly at first. As it stilled, the group gasped at the face of Jarrod lit up by laser on the body hanging above. As she stared, horrified, someone kissed the top of her head and whispered in a soft baritone, “I do love you, my friend.” She looked around, but he was gone. On his way to his uncle’s in LA.

Visiting Mom

The prickling at the back of my neck started about twenty miles from my destination. Though I’d been driving through the night, I was wired as though on triple espresso. Anticipation kept me wide awake. Mom’s threat to haunt me literally came true. She was waiting at the gate to Everton Cemetery, shimmering in the moonlight, just like last year, and the year before, and the first year before that.

The moment I stepped from the car, she was calling to me, “Honey Bear, you made it!” I hate that name, and now I would hear it for the rest of my life, not just the rest of hers. Asking her meant absolutely nothing. I may as well have asked my cat to stop meowing. She loved that name. Ugh

“Mom. Hi.”

“Come in. Come in. I’ve missed you so much.”

“How does that work exactly?”

And then she was hugging me, ghost style, moving her diaphanous self through me like ice water. I shivered and clenched my teeth.

“Stop clenching your teeth. You’ll give yourself a headache.”

“I can’t help it. You’re freezing me.”

“Oh, you’ll get used to it. Eventually.”

“I don’t actually think I will. Ever.”

“Sit. Sit.” She patted the stone at her grave. “I feel so much ‘more’ closer to my resting place.”

“I don’t even want to know what that means.” I set the ledge of my butt across the top of the stone. “Tell me again how this happened.”

She sighs. “Must we go over this every year?”

I nod vigorously. “Yes, because this is so far outside of what I believed was reality. It still feels like a dream.”

“You’ll get used to it, I swear.”

“I don’t think I will, Mom. I can never tell anyone. Who would believe me?”

Another sigh and she attempts again an explanation. “I panicked. There was so much confusion. You have no idea how confusing dying can be.”

“Yes, I can only imagine.” My hands are on my head pushing my hair back. “Except I have you to tell me from firsthand experience, which shouldn’t be happening.”

She reaches for my hands to pull them away, a familiar gesture, but this time eliciting only the shivering and teeth clenching. So she puts down her arms, steps back, and gently shakes her head.

“The choices offered made no sense until my kids were mentioned. After that, I kept nodding until I signed a contract.”

“Really? Signed a contract. Tell me again how that worked.”

Another sigh and she twirls in a circle, which honestly was fun to watch, the shimmer spiraling. “The paper appeared in front of me and I signed with my finger, just like magic, you know, in that show about that witch that you liked when you were a teenager.” I nodded, recalling my favorite after-school show.

“Did it sparkle, like a magic wand?”

“We go over this every year.” Her hands lay in front of her, palms up, beseeching. “We have only two hours. Please let’s talk about your life.”

“Okay, okay.” She leans back as though against something, in a reclining position on air, an action that makes me inexplicably jealous. “I’m still working at the same place, which is why I get my birthday off still. So no worries.” I give her my best ‘anything for you’ look, pouting just a touch.

“I’m not going to apologize again for having you at 3am. That was not my choice.” She reaches up and behind her, as though around a giant ball, in a melodramatic gesture. “The deal is made. You have to be here at 3am. That is also not my choice. You’re the one who moved so far away from home.”

The stone is making my butt numb. I’ve been here only half an hour and the sandman is sprinkling me. I yawn.

“Don’t you dare fall asleep. You know I cannot control the consequences.” My hands return to my head, pushing back my hair.

“Put your hands down.” I stand up and do jumping jacks. That helps. I try not to think about the wailing in my dreams, reminiscent of my night terrors as a child.

“Okay, if I start to nod off, hug me.” She nods, tight-lipped.

I tell her more about my life, which really doesn’t change all that much, especially in only a year. Then I ask about my baby sister.

“She doesn’t come. Still. I guess night terrors for only half an hour are not enough to convince her.” Her sigh this time sounds more wistful. “She was such an easy birth. Half an hour. Boom!”

Halfway done, I think, as I look at my watch. Fortunately, I am more awake now and enjoying the company of my deceased mother. I’m feeling a pang of guilt, and a little mirth, at the though of my older sister whose birth took 21 hours.

Scream for Ice Cream

Writing prompt from Facebook group Writing Bad:

Image may contain: text

As you run outside, holding your boobs, because of course you don’t wear a bra to bed, your attention is drawn to the receding ice cream truck, a clown waving out the driver’s side window and the dark curls of little Tisha poking from the window where the ice cream treats are meant to be served. She is laughing and yelling back at you, “Mommy, now I can have all the ice cream I want! Forever and ever!” You take off running again, totally forgetting to hold the boobage, screaming at your baby, “Jump, Tisha, jump! Mommy wants you to jump!”

And then you fall head over ass from an obstacle in the road. Ignoring the blood streaming down your face, and the pain streaking through your left knee, you crawl back to the obstacle.

It’s Tisha. And she’s ice cold.

Lucy Fer

Lucy scrolls through Facebook, trying to turn off her mind’s babble in an attempt to repress the words of those little imps. Sticks and stones indeed break bones, but words also do hurt. Natural disasters normally make her heart race. Troll commentary usually urges her to literally LOL. Grammar nazis generally get her goat going. Today, not even her secret pleasure of cat videos – those little beany toes! – suppresses the demonic taunting.

She clicks on a video of a blonde woman with an accent, the one she devilishly twisted for those happy-go-luckies “down under,” the ingrates, no appreciation at all her work. Down Under! Down Under! Just like her, but they refuse to get it. They’re too freaking happy to be the scariest country on earth, with the most fearsome animals. Still, the connection eludes them. Scariest? Fearsome? Hello!

Anyway, this blondie started The Body Movement, griping about hating her body. Betcha no one ever calls her a man. Wait! Look at these other women. They have big chunky bodies like Lucy. But none of them have her black hair, red skin. No one says they have goat’s hooves. None of them have claws for fingernails. No one calls them “Master.” No one calls them “Lucifer.”

She’s co-hosting her second religion. She’s changed her locale, her whole décor, from floral greenery to fiery red-hot mama, and they continue to mangle her name and treat her as a male deity. No matter how many thousands of years, she will never be Blondie.

“Whatcha doin’, Lucifer, watching cat videos again?” The little demon snickers.

“It’s Lucy Fer! I’m a girl!” She roars to the heavens. Yes, she knows her hears her. She knows he’s laughing. He’s been laughing at her since he called himself Zeus and lived on a stupid mountain. He’s been laughing ever since he gave her goat’s feet. He thought it oh so clever to match her skin to her latest decor. Always, the male has the power. Older brothers make for cruel deities.

https://theprose.com/post/146875